Why we need to move empathy from personal emotion to collective moral concern
Empathy comes in two distinct forms: affective empathy is our instinct for mirroring the emotions of others, while cognitive empathy is our conscious ability to understand someone else’s perspective. In this instalment of Aeon In Sight, the British writer Roman Krznaric argues that empathy is a uniquely powerful – if often overlooked – tool for transforming and improving societies on a mass scale.
Using it effectively, however, requires much more than affective empathy’s rush of emotions and reflexive reactions, to which the culture today seems particularly inclined. Rather, to get the most out of empathy, we must focus on widening our moral concern through cognitive empathy, finding ways to move from the personal to the collective.